When people think “B-movies,” they usually think of the usual suspects; your no-budget slashers, your cheapo alien invasion features, all those chop-socky flicks with more roundhouse kicks than dialogue. But historically, perhaps the longest running B-genre of ‘em all is one cinephiles tend to overlook: the western. Long, long before kung-fu and zombie and space operas became the gold standard for B-sleaze, the genre was pretty much dominated by western movies. In fact, the sheer bulk of such low-budget Cowboys and Indians pictures made flicks of the sort synonymous with “exploitative cheese” from the dawn of the silent era until the outbreak of World War II. So, for at least half of the 20th century, when people thought “B-movie,” they were thinking Terror Comes To Tiny Town and not Galaxy of Terror. Which brings us to Big Kill, a new genre offering from director Scott Martin that’s basically the modern day analogue to the B-westerns of yore.
Clearly influenced by the spaghetti western classics of the 1960s and 1970s, Big Kill doesn’t necessarily trudge any new ground, but it’s certainly a competently made little low-budgeter with above average acting and production values for its type.
The movie starts off with these two cowboys getting chased out of Mexico by Danny Trejo, who’s literally in the movie for all of five minutes. From there, our dynamic duo — which includes a character played by the director himself — meet up with this accountant from Philadelphia, who’s trekking to the titular town of Big Kill, Arizona after getting a letter from his uncle telling him the mining business is booming out there.
Of course, when they actually get there, the town is revealed to be a dirty, dingy no man’s land ruled with an iron fist by this mysterious character called “The Preacher,” who has a certain fondness for gunning down horse stealers in the middle of the public square, while the neighborhood saloon is filled with violent prostitutes with names like “Felicia Stiletto,” who certainly have no qualms about stabbing bad tippers to death right in the middle of a poker game.
From there on out, it’s mostly about establishing the rest of the village’s kooky characters, including this one dude who likes to crush the larynxes of racists at the bar and LOU DIAMOND PHILLIPS, who plays this skeezy guy named “Johnny Kane,” who might be single-handedly responsible for all of the carnage going on in town, but nonetheless promises that he has a plan to make the village “respectable” again.
After the one hour mark, though, the movie starts hitting some snags, with way too many romantic subplots going on. Thankfully, after about 40 minutes of just kinda’ stagnating, we arrive at our prerequisite gun fight climax, which includes just about every genre cliche you can think of — culminating, naturally, with a good 95 percent of the cast getting their torsos turned into Swiss cheese.
But let’s hit upon the finer points of the plot, why don’t we? Thirty dead bodies. Two bare breasts and buttocks (both female, in case you were wondering.) Card cheatin’. Cattle rustlin’. Face lickin’. Barn burnin’. Nightjohn stabbin’. Throat crushin’. One hanging. One severed ear. One guy getting dragged to death behind a stampeding horse. LITERAL backstabbing. Four shootouts, including the 20-minute grand finale. Multiple bullets to the back of the skull. Exploding chili peppers. And the thing more or less responsible for this movie existing in the first place — some SERIOUS melodramatic music fu.
Starring Jason Patric as the evil Preacher, who gives people the option of joining his flock or getting their intestines scrambled; Lou Diamond Phillips as Johnny Kane, the vile cattle rustling cartel head honcho who looks so much like Charles Bronson it’s kinda’ scary; Clint Hummel as Travis, the desperado who says ‘We made love, Jake, and it was a beautiful thing”; and Danny Trejo as General Morales, who easily has the best line in the movie — “If any of you ever come back to Mexico, you will get dead.”
Written by, directed by, and starring Scott Martin, who definitely shows promise as the next — uh, whatever the name of the guy who directed From Hell to Texas was, I guess.
If you’re not a tried and true genre fan, it’s doubtful that Big Kill will suddenly turn you on to western conventions. Still, it’s nice to see a low-budget western homage these days that — unlike the work of Quentin Tarantino — actually is a low-budget western. And you have to give Mark Atkins some major props on this one; not only is the cinematography in Big Kill much better than you’d expect, it’s probably one of the best-looking non-Hollywood movies — of any genre — you’ll see all year long. It is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and DigitalHD now.
Wicked Rating: 7/10
Director(s): Scott Martin
Writer(s): Scott Martin
Stars: Jason Patric, Lou Diamond Phillips, Clint Hummel, Danny Trejo
Studio/Production Company: Archstone Pictures, BondIt Media Capital, Independent Studio Services
Run Time: 129 minutes